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Creating New Habits: How to make positive changes that stick

by Brad Callow |

August 8th, 2018

The day you decide to make a positive change in your life is an exciting one. It’s driven by a surge of motivation. It’s the day you sign up for that 5K, or that 60-day spin challenge, or that mindfulness app or, well, that juice & salad delivery subscription (hi there!) But the real challenge comes from being able to turn a new positive change into an actual habit. Because a habit is what happens when you’ve done something so many times that it becomes second nature. It’s your go-to when you’re not really thinking. In other words, it’s your new autopilot.

So how can you create new positive changes in your life that stick so long you can actually refer to them as habits?

The truth is, it can be hard. Really hard, in fact. But with a few tweaks and a new mindset about how habits are formed, it doesn’t have to be an impossible feat. On the contrary, it can be quite an exhilarating success!

Check out some of our tips below on how to make positive changes in your life that stick.

 

Repetition matters. (Repetition matters.)

Habits are formed through repetition. So the more you do something, the more likely it will turn into a habit.

And get this: it’s not just a psychological thing. Through repetition, our habits become literally etched into our brain’s neural pathways.

So what does that mean in the context of habit creation? It means that repetition is the key to forming a new habit. It is an actual, scientific fact.

 

Think long-term.

In the world of habit creation, you want to be the tortoise, not the hare.

One study says it takes 66 days to form a habit. And while that exact number is sometimes debated, the point it makes is a good one. Habit formation is not instant, but rather, a process.

So when you’re weeks into your new positive change and the excitement, drive, and motivation you once felt starts to fizzle, just think: 66 days. Get to 66 days. That’s when the change starts to get easier. Starts to feel more natural. Starts to turn into a habit.

66 days may not be an exact number, but it’s an excellent reminder that things will get easier. It just takes some time.

 

Start with small steps.

Why is it that crash diets never work in the long-term? It’s because surviving on 1,000 calories of plain chicken breast and black beans 7 days a week is not realistic over time. It’s not sustainable.

The key to habit formation is to take small steps that are easy to repeat. And not just for the first few weeks. It’s important to think long-term (remember: 66 days). In other words, don’t burn yourself out in the first month. 

Want to start eating healthier? Ditch the crash diet and focus on one small, manageable change. Like getting rid of the ice cream in your house. Or going for a walk after dinner when you’d normally be snacking.

 

Focus on consistency, not intensity.

When it comes to creating new healthy habits, consistency always trumps intensity. In fact, consistency is really the name of the game.

Want to start a new workout habit? Don’t burn yourself out in the first month with intense 2-hour lifting sessions. Ease into it by setting small goals you can achieve consistently, like working out for 30-minutes, 3 times a week.

 

Give yourself permission to slip-up. And check self-judgment at the door.

Slip-ups are inevitable. They happen to everyone. Just remember: your ultimate success or failure has nothing to do with slipping-up. It has everything to do with your ability to get back on track quickly.

Anticipating the imperfect days and then agreeing to not beat yourself up when they do happen can help you get back on track faster and more effectively.

And hey, if it helps to know, it’s scientifically proven that slip-ups do not affect the habit formation process.

 

Just get started.

This tip is exactly as it sounds. To break old habits, you must replace them with new behavioral patterns, new habits. Dr. Timothy Pychyl states that ‘just getting started’ is “not the only step, but it is a key first one”.

It may sound simple, but it’s the most critical step of all –acknowledge what change you want to make – and just get started.